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Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

Handicapped/limbless/sick Hermit Crab Care

October 16, 2012 in Caresheets

Written by Marie Davis (aka ladybug15057)

During a crabbers crabbing experience one may find themselves faced with a situation of needing to care for a severely handicapped or mutilated hermit crab. Do not despair, it is possible to care for a him so he can regenerate his missing limbs in hopes of having a successful molt. To do so will require extra TLC, time and patience.

First, one needs to have an isolation tank set up. The isolation tank should have a humidity level of 75-78%. (or the same percentage as the main tank humidity level was, unless this hermit crab is new and possibly suffering from PPS, which one would want to adjust the humidity level and temperature of the isolation tank according to the Post Purchase Stress article

Within the isolation tank place a dry sand substrate to limit the possibility of a mold complication in case the hermit crab would have any left over food on his shell or body after feeding. If this is not possible, one can get a small cleaned bowl and place dry sand within it and push this down into the original substrate in the iso, but should be large enough one can place a hut over the bowl. (or get a Tupperware type lid, a clean margarine lid and place dry sand within it) Do not use dry coco fiber, eco earth or a substrate that does require to be used damp so not to pull moisture from the hermit crab. Make a small impression within the sand to place the hermit crab in.

The isolation tank should have a regular night and day cycle up until one notes the gel limbs becoming larger and formed. When this is noted, the handicapped hermit crab should have darkness so his molting hormones can kick in. This can be accomplished by placing cardboard, or a towel on the outside of the tank.

Carefully attempt to offer him a drop of honey which is natures natural antibiotic. Next, with a dropper if possible, gently take the hermit crab and place 1 drop of dechlorinated ocean/sea water with 1 drop of dechlorinated fresh water within his shell. (if the hermit crab is larger, the size of a 50 cent piece place 2 drops of ocean and 2 drops of fresh water within his shell) After placing the drops of water within his shell, carefully place him in the sand impression you made and cover him with the hut. If he had molted, place his exo within the impression in the sand with him. Leave him be to destress for at least 12 hours, or until the next morning.

If he is limbless he will need your assistance in eating, as well as providing him with the water he needs. After permitting him to destress, take part of his exo and crush this into a powder form. Take a drop of 100% pure honey and mix a little of the exo within it to make a mushy paste. (If he hadn’t molted read regarding foods to offer later in this article, also making them into a mushy paste type food) Once the exo/food is prepared have a place ready where you can sit to take the time needed to feed him. Use a toothpick, or something small that you will be able to control easily and place a small drop of the mush on the end of it. Gently and carefully place the food where his maxillipeds (mouthparts) are and wait patiently for him to begin to eat the food. If he shows no interest in the food, you may need to gently touch his maxilliped area with the food to get his interest for him to begin to eat. If you watch closely you should be able to tell when he has had enough to eat, so stop offering the food so not to stress him more than he already is. (this is normally after he has cleaned the toothpick twice from the food you’re offering if he is a smaller hermit crab, if he is a larger hermit crab it maybe after 3-4 offerings) If you have gotten any of the food on his shell, clean this carefully with a Q-tip and ocean water. Once you have cleaned his shell of any possible food, you can place him within the ocean water pond for a minute to see if he can fill his shell with some water.

(make sure he is not totally submerged, and this can vary, if you place him in the fresh water pond for rinsing, place 1 drop of ocean water within his shell when you remove him from the pond, if you place him in the ocean pond, place 1 drop of fresh water within his shell) Once rinsed, place him back within the isolation tank in the area you had prepared for him and place the hut back over him. Please do not disturb this hermit crab again until evening when you have time to attempt to feed him again. The less he is disturbed, the less unnecessary stress he will have to undergo while he feels in such a vulnerable state. For the evening feeding, make a mush out of his exo with dechlor water. For the morning offering you can mix the crushed exo with dechlor water with a little spirulina mixed in as well if you have any. Attempt to rotate this with each feeding until majority of the exo is gone so he hopefully will continue to eat since hermit crabs are known to ignore foods they had eaten within 9-14 hours before.

Once his exo is gone, the feeding must continue on a daily basis in the morning and the evening as well as the cleaning of any excess food off of his shell and the fresh/ocean water dips in the pond. At night prior to you retiring for the day, place 1 drop of ocean and 1 drop of fresh water within his shell so he will have the water he wants/needs.

It is very important to offer him wide varied, high quality diet. Please attempt to stay away from the commercial foods unless they are of higher quality and either freeze dried or dehydrated without any preservatives within them. Offer foods that contain copper, lipids, zeaxanthin, bete carotene, high protein source, a high calcium source, chitin, cellulose, spirulina, seaweed, omega fats, Carbohydrates, etc.

The above care is provided for a hermit crab who has no limbs and not able to move about himself. If your hermit crab has a 2-3 limbs or more, you may wish to alter some of the care advice above. Observe him closely to see if he is able to go to the food dish as well as the water ponds on his own. This can be done too while you are asleep or away by smoothing the sand and checking it for tracks in the sand. If he is able to move about on his own, the detailed care above can be adjusted accordingly.

If you need further assistance, please feel free to complete the Emergency Questionnaire and post it on the forum.

Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

FAQ Locating an Escaped Hermit Crab

October 16, 2012 in FAQ

Written by Marie Davis

Ebbie the compressus climbed the thermometer

Ebbie the compressus climbed the thermometer

On occasions one may find that when they do an antenna count they seem to be missing a hermit crab? Where possibly could it be? All empty shells have been looked into, including doing the precaution of turning the shells upside down and placing water within them. There have been occasions when a hermit crab has changed shells and fits so far down within it they are impossible to see. By placing water within the shells and turning them hole side up, if the shell moves hole side down a crabber knows there is a resident within it.

Could he be hiding that well in the crabitat? If one has looked within every tank item, including the little crevices some items have, as well as completely sifted through their substrate inch by inch there maybe a chance he has escaped.

Trooper AKA Spiderman

Trooper AKA Spiderman

Even if one feels this is impossible for the hermit crab to do because none of their crabitat items come close to the top of the tank, unless one has a screen lid to cover the top of the tank it is possible for the hermit crab to have escaped. They are expert climbers and are even capable of climbing the silicone on the inside of the tank corners.

Now the whole inside of the tank has been checked. Each item has been looked at inside including the holes of any and all logs and huts within the tank. The substrate has been gone through as well as all empty shells have been looked into. Hermit Crab count is still missing one.

Look around the outside of the tank, including around the legs of the stand the tank is on. Make sure to check all wiring around the tank and what maybe leading down from the tank. Check under couches, chairs, tables, beds, plants, along the wall of the room and other rooms close by. Check curtains, closets, within shoes, under refrigerators, in bathrooms or where it maybe warm and a bit humid. If you have other pets, check around the water and food dishes.

When it gets to be dusk, place newspaper or aluminum foil along the edges of the wall on the floor. Place some smelly food (eg. Sardines, shrimp, krill, tuna, etc) on the paper/foil as well as a water source. Sit quietly in a very dim room, or a dark room and listen carefully. It may also help if you have a flashlight handy so if you do hear a scooting across the paper/foil you will be able to turn it on and see where the sound is coming from. This method may take a couple of nights for one to find their hermit crab, so one does need to be patient.

A very determined perlatus climbed the silicon and began tearing open the screen lid

A very determined perlatus climbed the silicon and began tearing open the screen lid

A very determined perlatus climbed the silicon and began tearing open the screen lid

A very determined perlatus climbed the silicon and began tearing open the screen lid

Here are a few ideas/tips from other Crab Street Journal members:

Grant wrote:
I imagine you would want to consider their needs and plan from there:
Mine always head for dark areas when I let them roam.
Limit the dark areas to a place you can easily corner them.

Remove all electrical wires from the floor and other things that can be used for climbing to make sure that they stay safely on the ground.

In the dark area(s) set up for them maybe place some food, maybe even a fan to provide a breeze to draw their attention to the area.

If you plan on hanging out and wait: set up some glasses or things that their shell will clank against.

Daethian wrote:
Grant in a research article I was reading last week or so about the amazing sense of smell of hermit crabs, the researchers actually set up large fans at night and the crabs consistently traveled away from the fans. Even when it meant they were travelling away from their home sea. Where without the fan blowing they tended to almost always naturally orient toward their home sea. They can definitely smell ocean water.

CtryLuv wrote:
here are the things I have listed on my site.

* Check dark, damp places, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and closets. They will try to find a place where they feel safe and where there is more warmth and humidity than anywhere else in the house.

* Place a nice smelly food that your crabby enjoys out in the open. Place it on something such as wax paper, tin foil or paper so that when he crawls on it, you can hear him.

* If you have other animals watch them. Cats and dogs are very good at knowing when there is something around that isnt there usually. If they seem to be sniffing around somewhere, or trying to get to an area they dont normally go to, check it out.

* Also check under certain appliances such as refrigerator and washers. These are dark warm places hermies might like.

* Look up high. Alot of people have found their crabbies scaling curtains and drapes. Anything you have that they can climb, check it out.

Not sure if those are just repeats of others listed above, but these are things Ive picked up over the years. Ive only had one escaped crabbie “Bob” and of course he was just strolling across house like he owned it, so he didnt apply to any of the above, but Bob was a macho hermie, hehehehe.

Profile photo of Stacy

by Stacy

Why do land hermit crabs drop limbs?

September 25, 2012 in Caresheets

The rate at which the limbs regenerate depends upon the molt cycle (Morgan, 1900; Zeleny, 1908; Bliss, 1960; Skinner 1962, 1985). During aggressive encounters, a crab will often choose to flee and autotomize (self-amputate) the limb being held so that they can escape. Other reasons why a land hermit crab may self-amputate is in response to stress, ill health, to reduce blood loss from a wound, or as a response to the presence of bacteria or pests. (Cooper, 98). There is a thin grove on each crab appendage close to where it joins the body. This is the fracture plane, along with an internal membrane. Separation occurs instantly through stress from fluctuating temperatures.

Lost Limbs

Hermit crab dropped leg

Hermit crab dropped leg

What is Autotomy?

Comes from the latin words autos for “self” and tomos for “cut

Autotomy can be described as self-cutting, Websters dictionary describes autotomy as a “reflex separation of a part (as an appendage) from the body: division of the body into two or more pieces.” Hermit Crabs can autotomize (drop) and regenerate (regrow) their limbs from juvenile to adult stages. The break occurs along a fracture plane located at the appendage’s base.

Why do land hermit crabs drop limbs?

The rate at which the limbs regenerate depends upon the molt cycle (Morgan, 1900; Zeleny, 1908; Bliss, 1960; Skinner 1962, 1985). During aggressive encounters, a crab will often choose to flee and autotomize (self-amputate) the limb being held so that they can escape. Other reasons why a land hermit crab may self-amputate is in response to stress, ill health, to reduce blood loss from a wound, or as a response to the presence of bacteria or pests. (Cooper, 98). There is a thin grove on each crab appendage close to where it joins the body. This is the fracture plane, along with an internal membrane. Separation occurs instantly through

Stress from fluctuating temperatures

Hermit crabs are stressed by changes in environmental factors, it is too hot or cold, humid or dry. Some times when hermit crabs lose limbs it is a sign of stress or ill health. It is important to keep your crabarium as close to the environment they are used to in the wild. That means recreating the tropics which as we know means warmth and moisture.


There are cases where one hermit crab will act aggressively towards another hermit crab. It could be territorial or over a desired shell. In the wild a hermit crab will “throw” a claw or leg if another hermit crab tries to pull them out of their shell. This is a responsive behaviour and their limbs are built in a way that they are able to “drop” or “throw” a limb easily so they may survive an attack. This is called Autotomy.

When one crab likes another’s shell, say Crab A likes Crab B’s shell, Crab A will go up to Crab B’s shell, knock its shell ( that of Crab A) against the other crab’s shell (Crab B), causing the crab in the desired shell (Crab B) to come out and have a look at what is going on. Now the first crab will try to pull the second crab out of its shell by a cheliped or other limb. The second crab will normally drop his cheliped (grasping claw) or leg and retreat inside his shell, using his remaining cheliped to protect himself. Preferring to loose a limb instead
of losing a shell.

Illness from contaminated living conditions

There are many stores that do not meet the needs of the land hermit crabs they sell. If a tank is overcrowded, unclean and there lack of fresh water. It is important that you regularly clean the tank and remove any signs of contaminated foodstuffs or mouldy substrate.

Mite infestation

If your hermit crab tank has a mite infestation you will need to get rid of them ASAP! Visit the MITES page for more information.

Molting Complications

Another reason crabs lose a limb or a cheliped is when a crab moults and does not shed their entire exoskeleton in one piece, but instead section by section, over a number of days. Generally if they survive the moult they grow their limbs back again (regeneration) and can be happy and healthy.

Why doesn’t the crab bleed to death?

The crab does not lose blood because it instantly clots. A second membrane helps in closing the wound, creating a nub-like covering which develops into a limb bud.

What happens next? Can they regrow the lost limb?

Hermit crab gel limb - limb regeneration

Hermit crab gel limb – limb regeneration

Hermit crab gel limb - limb regeneration

Hermit crab gel limb – limb regeneration

A nub-like covering developing into a limb bud, which is at first transparent and slowly unfolds. After one or more moults the bud (or ‘gel limb’ as it has been described) soon regenerates to the way it looked before the limb loss and will return to full size after a few moults. Sometimes this can trigger a number of moults one after the other as the crab struggles to regenerate all limbs successfully. Sensory neurons must grow and re-establish the appropriate connections with the neural network of the ventral nerve cord if the new limb is to exhibit its original function (Cooper, 98).





(Fig. 1. and Fig. 2 from Cooper, 1998)


Anatomy for Veterinary Technicians. Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine

Bergmann, M., Taylor, A.C. & Moore, P.G. 2001. Physiological stress in decapod crustaceans (Munida rugosa and Liocarcinus depurator) discarded in the Clyde Sea Norway lobster fishery. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol, 259: 215-229.

Cooper, R.L. (1998) DEVELOPMENT OF SENSORY PROCESSES DURING LIMB REGENERATION IN ADULT CRAYFISH. The Journal of Experimental Biology 201, 1745–1752 (1998)

MORGAN, T. H. (1900). Further experiments on regeneration of the appendages of the hermit crab. Anat. Anz. 17, 1–9.

William H. Amos (2003). Breaking Off. Hidden Worlds Back. Saturday February 1, 2003
URL: http://www.caledonianrecord.com/pages/hidden_worlds/story/521f67cc0